If you’ve been reading Revive for a while, it’s possible you’ve read in the past that I don’t attend church very often. While I’ve grown up in the Uniting Church WA, I’m not currently a member of any congregation.
This usually means that when I do attend worship, I am either welcomed as a new face – or not.
Sometimes I have my kids in tow, although usually these days it’s just the younger one.
Sometimes I’m there for work, so I get a completely different welcome to when I’ve turned up for worship.
When I’ve turned up for worship, not for work purposes, the welcome I receive is usually quite different from place to place. It can range from being awkwardly ignored, to overly intense. Both are a little bit terrifying.
I think the churches where I’ve felt most comfortable where people have respected those awkward feelings; giving me space to find my feet, while also intentionally inviting me into conversation.
Of course, there’s also scope to be welcomed in all sorts of areas of our lives such as in a new neighbourhood, new employment, community services and in commercial environments.
Part of being welcoming is understanding that the newcomer is likely to be feeling uncomfortable; but because everyone is different, I guess it’s also about reading the situation and responding in the most genuine and needed way. What one person feels to be a great welcome might be painful for someone else.
It’s hard being welcoming sometimes. Whether we don’t want something to change, we don’t feel great ourselves, or we’re intimidated by the newcomer; welcoming someone new into our circle is not always as straightforward as it seems.
In the week leading up to going to print with this edition, conversations in our office have reminded us that followers of Jesus aim to love all people – even those we struggle to accept. It can be a challenge, but it’s one worth taking up. We explore this further in our Safe Church feature article (p2–3).
Finally, Journey magazine, the publication for the Uniting Church in Queensland, published an article titled ‘Six ways to be a welcoming church.’ It has some great practical ideas for how congregations can welcome newcomers and it can be found at http://journeyonline.com.au/opinion/six-ways-welcoming-church.
We hope this edition inspires you to think about the ways in which you can be welcoming in your lives.